• Host-parasite ecophysiology of overwintering

      Larson, Don J.; Barnes, Brian; O'Hara, Todd; Sikes, Derek; Wipfli, Mark (2019-12)
      To survive extreme winters, parasites must overwinter either in a host, as free-living larvae, or be reintroduced yearly through migratory hosts. This thesis examines interrelations between host parasite overwintering physiology and behavior in Alaska between the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae and their host, wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus). The first chapter examines overwintering physiology and behavior of wood frogs in the field. The second chapter creates a laboratory method for determining physiological responses of wood frogs to environmental transitions from summer to fall. The third chapter examines if and how R. ondatrae survive within a frozen wood frog. Free-living wood frogs investigated over two winters in Fairbanks, AK remained frozen for up to 7 months and survived temperatures as low as -18°C, values much more extreme than those previously reported (Chapter 1). Alaskan wood frogs also synthesized and released approximately one order of magnitude greater concentrations of cryoprotectant (glucose) in multiple tissues than levels previously reported. Wood frogs in the field did not experience the same slow and continuous cooling that researchers routinely subject frogs to under experimental conditions. Instead they cooled at rates of up to -1.5°C h⁻¹ for short periods in a diurnal freeze-thaw pattern repeated over one to three weeks until remaining frozen for the rest of winter. Since wood frogs only produce glucose at the initiation of freezing, I hypothesized that freeze-thaw cycling within hibernacula allowed for incremental increases of glucose resulting in higher concentrations in field wood frogs than found in laboratory frozen wood frogs. I compared patterns of diurnal freeze-thaw cycling with the standard laboratory freezing protocols for wood frogs. Wood frogs that experienced multiple freeze-thaw events responded with significant increases in glucose concentration in liver, leg, and heart tissues at each freezing with no significant losses in glucose with each following thaw period (Chapter 2). This incremental increase in glucose within wood frogs may also assist in parasite survival. Trematode metacercariae may be absorbing host glucose and using this cryoprotectant to enhance their survival (Chapter 3). This result provides evidence that host physiology in winter may both hinder (through freezing) and facilitate (through cryoprotectant production) parasite survival.